In today’s papers there is a report on the latest potential terrorist threat to a major event in Melbourne.
A young man, Mr Ali Khalif Shire Ali, who’s family originally migrated here from Somalia, was born here in Australia. According to Federal Police, his radicalisation happened here over the last few years.
Man arrested over alleged Melbourne New Year’s Eve terror plot fronts court
ARMED Protective Services Officers will be deployed at Victoria’s shopping malls, supermarkets and at festivals in a bid to foil terrorist attacks.
The Herald Sun can exclusively reveal the Andrews Government will pay for new PSOs, on top of the 1319 now patrolling railway stations, to protect places where large numbers of people gather.
The move came as it emerged that a man accused of plotting a New Year’s Eve bloodbath in Federation Square had claimed that the nation’s spy agency, ASIO, approached him two years ago to inform on Islamic extremists.
Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 20, known to his friends as Ali Shire, faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with preparing to commit a terrorist attack and collecting documents to facilitate a terrorist act.
Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, who tracked Mr Shire for much of the past year, say they discovered he planned to shoot “as many people as he could” in a CBD attack.
Magistrate Simon Zebrowski remanded Mr Shire to appear back in court on March 13.
According to charge sheets, Mr Shire “did an act in preparation for, or planning a terrorist act” between March 31 and April 6 this year.
It is also alleged that on or about June 27, he intentionally collected a document “that was connected with the preparation for, or assistance in a terrorist attack”.
Heavily armed members of the Special Operations Group arrested Mr Shire about 3pm on Monday, in front of shocked locals in central Werribee.
Speaking before Mr Shire faced court, Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said: “This is a person who expressed an intention to try and kill as many people as he could through shooting them in Federation Square area on New Year’s Eve. It is a tremendous concern to us that (during) the festive season, when people are out enjoying themselves, there is a potential plot to commit a terrorist act.”
Police allege Mr Shire tried to obtain an automatic rifle. But Mr Patton said he never managed to get hold of a gun.
“In respect to the documents that he accessed, he’s accessed documents produced by al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula, which is a guide book in respect to how to commit a terrorist (act and) … and also how to use firearms, guns and handguns and rifles,” Mr Patton said.
The new PSOs, who will also patrol sporting and entertainment complexes, are intended to deter terrorists by their presence and to be on hand to respond first to any terrorist attack.
Senior police and Premier Daniel Andrews said there was no continuing threat, and people should not be afraid to attend celebrations for Christmas and for New Year’s Eve.
Mr Patton said Mr Shire, who was born in Australia to Somali parents, had lived in Victoria all his life.
A “high level” person of interest he had been monitored since the start of the year, he said.
The Herald Sun can reveal Mr Shire is well connected in extremist communities in both Melbourne and Sydney, and in 2015 claimed ASIO spies tried to recruit him as an informant.
It is alleged his extremist behaviour gradually escalated.
Mr Shire is said to regularly have attended prayers with his family at Virgin Mary mosque in Werribee.
Worshippers there described the family as decent, and said they had noticed nothing suspicious about his behaviour.
Boss Warsame Hassan said Mr Shire had been working at his Footscray computer business part-time for about three months to learn new skills, and had shown no signs of radicalisation or worrying behaviour. “If I had (noticed any) I would have told the police,” he said.
Witnesses told the Herald Sun police arrived about 2.30pm on Monday and searched the premises for about five hours.
About 3pm the terror suspect was arrested in front of shocked locals in central Werribee.
Witness Jessica Karasmanis told the Herald Sun she was parked at the traffic lights when she saw the drama unfold.
She said there were at least five men in heavy armour clothing and another five undercover cops.
“They had him on the ground and they had his hands tied behind his back,” she said.
“They then stood him up and sat him next to a building.”
Ms Karasmanis said she showed her partner the photos when she got home and he made a comment that it may have been a terror arrest.
“I said, ‘no, not in Werribee’ and then I saw the news this morning,” she said.
Nearby workers said police ordered them to stay inside their businesses during the arrest.
“They told me to get back inside,” said a massage parlour worker.
Mr Shire is understood to have lived with his parents and brothers.
Mr Andrews said: “I’m very confident that Victorians can be confident that our police force and their partners are doing everything possible to keep us safe.
“This is yet another example of the fine and outstanding work Victoria Police do every day in so many different, challenging circumstances to keep us safe. It’s again an opportunity for us to extend our gratitude to the Australian Federal Police and our other national security partners.”
– Cassie Zervos, Rebekah Cavanagh and Andrea Hamblin
Fans facing sport clampdown
FANS attending the Boxing Day Test and the Australian Open should expect electronic scans and bag searches as security is beefed up for Melbourne’s summer of sport.
Following yesterday’s anti-terrorism raids, spectators were urged not to be deterred from attending major sports events.
But they were advised to remain vigilant, and to allow more time to get to their seats inside stadiums.
Anti-terrorism measures such as bollards will be installed outside venues, 24- hour CCTV surveillance will be set up, and metal detector, bag and car searches will be carried out.
A sellout crowd of up to 100,000 is expected on day one of the Test, and Cricket Australia spokesman Tim Whittaker said the safety of fans, players and officials was the top priority.
“We are in regular contact with the relevant authorities to ensure we have the appropriate level of security at matches held around the country,’’ Mr Whittaker said.
“We encourage fans to arrive early to the Boxing Day Test to undergo regular security checks, including wanding and bag inspections.’’
Victoria Police Commander Russell Barrett said there were “no known or specific threats’’ to people, organisations, infrastructure or events, and the public should “go about their daily business’’.
“For the Boxing Day Test, as with all major events, Victoria Police works closely with its partners including venue and event organisers to assess risks and develop plans to maximise patron safety,’’ he said.
“Victoria Police will have a highly visible presence inside and outside the MCG and the public can expect to see police at public transport hubs and along the routes to the stadium,” he said.
Melbourne Cricket Club spokesman Shane Brown confirmed water-filled barriers would be used during the cricket season to separate fans from vehicles.
But restrictions on entering the ground with anything but clear bags, and the installation of airport-style, walk-through weapon scanners, would not be in place at the MCG by the time of the Test.
“With four weeks to go until the Boxing Day Test, we are in regular contact with police and intelligence authorities to ensure we have the latest advice with respect to security matters,’’ Mr Brown said.
“At this stage, cricket fans can expect to see similar security procedures this summer as they have for recent MCG events, including bag checks and wanding.”
Tennis Australia spokeswoman Prue Ryan said:
“We work closely with all the relevant authorities, including security experts and law enforcement agencies, to ensure we have the very best procedures in place.’’
The reality is that good intelligence work by the Australian Federal Police identified the young man before any harm was done. From the moment he set out to purchase an automatic weapon illegally his potential plan was doomed.
It is of very real importance that those Government agencies charged with providing the public with protection from such menace are equipped and trained to provide that protection.
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